There are several ways to break into pictures. June Vincent, a minister’s daughter, did it uniquely. “I was a model—someone saw my picture—and I landed a stock contract at Universal. Because of my experience, I received a higher salary than the other girls starting out—and during my first week in Hollywood, I got to meet and have dinner with Greta Garbo!”
Reminiscing about her westerns, June recalls “I never did a western while at Universal. I did a variety of roles, including ‘The Climax’ with Boris Karloff. There is a huge painting of me in the film. When it was over, Ernest Pagano, one of the producers, put it up in his office. It took up most of the wall! I wasn’t happy because people thought we were having an affair—which I never have and never would do.
At Columbia I was in ‘Song of Idaho’ with Kirby Grant. We’d known each other at Universal. We were to play romantic leads in ‘Babes On Swing Street’. For reasons I cannot recall, I was taken out and Anne Gwynne put in. Anne even wore the gown Vera West designed for me. Kirby was a nice fellow, with a good singing voice we seldom got to hear.
In most of my westerns, in fact most of the movies I did at Columbia, I was the meanie, the bitch. Like ‘Colorado Sundown’ (at Republic) with Rex Allen and even the musical, ‘Arkansas Swing’ with the Hoosier Hot Shots, a terrific quartet who were also in ‘Song of Idaho’.
Off screen, I was friends with people I was nasty to in pictures. Judy Canova and I were friends. There’s a terrific line in ‘WAC From Walla Walla’ where she’s trying to pick out a shade of lipstick. I walk by and say ‘window shade.’ (Laughs) Judy played the star bit to the hilt! She had an entourage that followed her around. One woman held an umbrella over Judy’s head to keep the sun off her.”
For several years, June sported a distinctive white streak in her hair. “It was my idea to ‘frost’ the streak in the front. I was searching for a different look.” Producers liked it so she kept it for awhile but eventually they said, “Either be blonde or brunette. But don’t be brunette in the back and blonde in the front.”
As early as 1947, June Vincent began freelancing and appearing on TV. “I did a ‘Public Prosecutor’ with John Howard and Anne Gwynne—the first filmed TV series.
I left Universal after doing ‘Black Angel’ with Peter Lorre and Dan Duryea (a big flirt). Universal was like a family. When I was having a terrible time during my pregnancy, they came to my home and built sets right in my bedroom so I could finish the few scenes I had left in ‘That’s the Spirit’.
But Columbia—that was work! I did a lot of crime pictures and another horror called ‘The Creeper’. When it was time for those cats to be all over my dead body, I yelled for a stand in. I couldn’t stand having dozens of cats walking all over me. It gave me the shivers! Around this time I did a picture called ‘Zamba’ with a very young Beau Bridges. I like him so much—I’ve followed his career ever since.”
In the ‘50s there were several appearances on series like “Perry Mason”: “Producer Gail Patrick used me so much as a villain I finally told her, ‘They’ll know it’s me the moment I show up!’”, “Abbott and Costello”: “I worked with them in ‘Here Come The Co-Eds’—it was fun to see them again.” and “Boston Blackie”: “Kent Taylor was Blackie and Lois Collier was Mary. Lois and I worked together in ‘Ladies Courag-eous’ ten years earlier. We were roommates on our location shooting. I had a blind date and when Lois and I were going up the elevator with some servicemen, she pointed to a very handsome guy and said, ‘I’ll bet that’s him.’ And it was! We’ve been married over 50 years now! I used to see Lois every week at church but lost touch after we moved south.”
A western series June Vincent guested on five times was “Have Gun Will Travel”. “A nice man from Arkansas, Ray Nielsen, sent me a tape of the episode ‘Strange Vendetta’. I played a Mexican woman and wore a dark wig. We’ve been showing it to the kids and friends. Several have told me I should dye my hair black, but I’m not about to do that!”
After guesting on “Maude”, June Vincent retired. “I didn’t like what I was seeing, so I decided that was it. I never thought I was a good actress in pictures—but later I became an actress on TV. I kept every W2 for every show or film I did. I had them in a huge box which I took to SAG, dropped on their desk and asked for my pension!
At 88 June died on November 20, 2008, in Aurora, CO.
June’s Western Filmography
Movies: Song of Idaho (‘48 Columbia)—Kirby Grant; Colorado Sundown (‘52 Republic)—Rex Allen; WAC From Walla Walla (‘52 Republic)—Judy Canova; Miracle Of The Hills (‘59 Fox)—Rex Reason. TV: Have Gun Will Travel: Strange Vendetta (‘57); Have Gun Will Travel: Colonel And The Lady (‘57); Have Gun Will Travel: Black Sheep (‘60); Have Gun Will Travel: Everyman (‘61); Have Gun Will Travel: Broken Image (‘61); Zane Grey Theatre: Wire (‘58); Trackdown: The Wedding (‘58); Wanted Dead Or Alive: Double Fee (‘59); Rifleman: The Visitors (‘60); Riverboat: End Of A Dream (‘60); Tales Of Wells Fargo: The Wayfarers (‘62); Great Adventure: Testing Of Sam Houston (‘64); Virginian: Dead Eye Dick (‘66); Virginian: With Help From Ulysses (‘68); Kung Fu: Way Of Violence Has No Mind (‘74).